Richard Susskind’s book “The End of Lawyers?” has been shown to provoke strong, defensive emotions. However, we can choose to engage in the debate, to hear Susskind out, and join him in considering how the arguments might impact us, our organisations, even our very jobs and livelihoods.
It is likely to be a frightening journey, destabilising and challenging, but I wonder if those fears stem from what Susskind is saying, or whether Susskind is simply becoming a focal point onto which we project wider anxieties and concerns.
I set out below a list of legal news headlines taken from The Lawyer website over the last week:
• Latham revenues slump $400m during 2008
• More pain as UK 200 job losses near 2500 mark
• Hammonds redundancy talks end: 77 to go
• McDermott lays off 149 across US network
• Clifford Chance to cut partners in firmwide reshaping
And all of this is without even registering the impact on the small to medium firm that still makes up a large portion of the UK legal profession.
The economic climate is having a massive impact upon the marketplace for legal services.
This is a changing marketplace that Susskind could never have anticipated when he started writing “The End of Lawyers?” and it offers us a different vantage point from which to perceive his book.
All of a sudden, Susskind does not present a threat, or at least any threat greater than the one that our profession faces. Instead, Susskind’s threat becomes more hypothetical, theoretical. That, on a relative basis, is likely to feel more comfortable than the predicaments posed by the economic downturn, which are undeniable and very real.
We can now choose to recognise that Susskind’s warnings are not a “doom-laden” prophetic vision of the distant future, some two to three years hence. Instead we can take stock of where we are now in which case, remarkably “The End of Lawyers?” is no longer the most immediate threat. It just might be the answer. How?